Meet Addie Lightner, the “heart-and-soul” pitcher for the back-to-back Class 4 state champion Blue Springs South High School softball team.
Her numbers, while impressive, don’t jump out at you and grab you by the throat and scream “Player of the Year.”
But the way she responds to the moment, the big game, the spotlight – she was the perfect choice to claim The Examiner’s 2019 Softball Player of the Year Award.
In the 2019 semifinal game, Lightner was given a second chance and made the most of it.
The Blue Springs South senior hit a foul pop in the sixth inning, seemingly missing an opportunity with the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position with just one out.
Rock Bridge third baseman Chloe Simon dropped the foul pop fly and Lightner’s eyes lit up like silver dollars.
“They gave me a second chance and I wanted to make the most of it,” Lightner said.
She slashed a double to center field to drive in Regi Hecker and Emily Berry, giving Blue Springs South its first lead of the game.
“She just went back up there and did what needed to be done,” Blue Springs South coach Kristi Williams said.
Lightner retired the final 13 Bruin batters to lift the reigning state champions to a 3-2 victory.
In the title game, she pitched her fourth shutout of the season to claim a 10-0 mercy rule victory over Suburban Big Six opponent Raymore-Peculiar and complete a three-season stretch in which she was part of a second-place state team and two championships.
Oh, and by the way, in last year’s 2-0 state championship win over Troy Buchanan guess who hit a two-run homer to provide the winning margin for pitcher Easton Seib, The Examiner’s 2018 Player of the Year, and the Jaguars?
You guessed it – Addie Lightner.
“She is a heart-and-soul player, the type of player who can put a team on her back and carry it to the state championship,” Williams said. “Last year Easton, this year Addie – two very deserving players of the year.
“And this year, the bigger the game, the better Addie was. If it was a big game, I gave her the ball. It was that simple.”
And she did a pretty decent job, when you consider that she does not even think of herself as a pitcher.
“I can pitch,” Lightner said, “and I want the ball in big games, but Easton is a pitcher. I’ll never pitch in college like she is. I’m an infielder who was asked to pitch and was happy to do it because all I want to do is help my team win.”
And win they did. The Jaguars didn’t win the Suburban Big Six title, and finished with a 20-6 record, but Williams is quick to point out, “We won 11 of our last 12 games and any team that beat us in the regular season lost to us if we played them in the playoffs.”
Lightner finished with an 11-1 record, a 1.47 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 95.1 innings.
“She pitched to contact,” her coach said, “and she had a great defense to back her up.”
She also starred at the plate where she hit .398 with a team-high four homers, 12 doubles and 31 RBIs. She also scored 19 runs while being named to the Missouri High School Fast Pitch Coaches Association all-state first team as an at-large player (formerly designated as utility). She finished her career at South with a .456 batting average.
And Lightner is the first player to step away from the spotlight to credit her coaches and teammates for their remarkable three-year run of success.
“I never think about awards or any of that stuff,” said Lightner, who will continue her softball career at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, “but the great thing about winning this award, which is great, is that I can talk about my coaches and my teammates.
“Our coaches are the best! Coach Williams had the confidence in me to give the chance to pitch in the biggest games of the season, and I never wanted to let her down.
“And I love the girls on the team. I think one big reason we’ve had so much success is because we’re all so close and such good friends. I think you work a little more and try a little bit harder when you want to have success with your best friends, and we’ve been able to do that the past three years.
“When we finished second when I was a sophomore, I wondered if we would ever make it back to state. Then, we won it last year, and it was so important to all the girls, and especially our seniors, to win it again this year, and we were able to do it.
“What a great way to end your high school career.”